AFC Wimbledon 0
By Dave Hunt-Jackson at Montgomery Waters Meadow
AFC Wimbledon earned a hard-fought point on Saturday, but games are running out fast for the bottom-of-the table outfit to turn things around.
Although they defended stoutly in a drab encounter, Wimbledon failed to fashion a single effort on target with a Joe Pigott flick over the bar their only chance of any note.
Manager Wally Downes picked an unchanged side from the 2-1 defeat by Charlton, the Dons lining up in their now familiar 5-3-2 formation.
Despite having two wing-backs and two up front, the visitors were simply unable to create any pressure on Steve Arnold’s goal as the match evolved into a midfield stalemate with neither side able to dominate the other.
The Shrews did have the lion’s share of the chances and had a late Fejiri Okenabirhie goal ruled out, but it was a largely sterile encounter with the highlight of the second half being the enraged protests of the home supporters, some enjoying the benefits of safe standing, at every decision referee Anthony Backhouse made.
While the clean sheet was welcome, the reality is a draw is not enough with the South Londoners now nine points from safety with just 30 up for grabs. In effect anything less than four points from the home games against Doncaster and Peterborough will leave Wimbledon in even worse shape with relegation seemingly inevitable.
This is tough on Downes, who has turned the Dons into a resilient, hard-to-beat side capable of scoring – as the four against both West Ham and Rochdale demonstrates. Against Shrewsbury the young Wimbledon side simply misfired and were unable to break down a seasoned Shrews defence.
The young back-line were resolute with Paul Kalambayi looking the real deal once again alongside skipper Will Nightingale and Terell Thomas. Toby Sibbick and Steve Seddon tried to get forward and create crosses but, in truth, there was little service to the front pair.
The continued injury absence of Dylan Connolly reduced the options from the bench and with James Hanson still working his way back to full match sharpness neither he nor Mitchell Pinnock made much impression when they were introduced.
Wimbledon are a much-improved side with Downes and assistant Glyn Hodges at the helm, along with the addition of some astute signings in the January window. They would no doubt have been far more competitive over the full season and might be better placed had Downes come in earlier.
The reality is that there is a mountain to climb and while the team look capable of narrowing the gap to the sides above them, to overtake four is a very tall order indeed.
AFC Wimbledon (5-3-2): Ramsdale 8, Thomas 7, Kalambayi 8, Nightingale 7, Sibbick 7, Wordsworth 6, Wagstaff 7 (Hanson 71), Hartigan 7, Seddon 6, Folivi 6 (Pinnock 82), Pigott 6. Not used: McDonnell,Watson, Barcham, McLoughlin, Jervis.
IMAGES BY SEAN GOSLING